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Good teamwork will get you through fertility challenges

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Husband and wife team Antonia and Nick remained strong through their fertility treatment.


Now, Antonia heads up a patient support team for one of the UK’s leading IVF providers, TFP Fertility.

IVF can be a challenging journey

IVF can be a challenging journey. I know this from my own experience.


When patients at TFP Fertility’s nine clinics around the UK are going through treatment, they know they can get in touch as often as they like.


No question is too big or too small.


This personal service is partly possible thanks to Antonia Disney, 37, and her team.


Known as Patient Support Associates, they assist patients via phone twelve hours a day from their Nottingham base.


Antonia, who lives in nearby Derby, says: “The calls can be about anything at all.”


The team helps with everything from patient registrations and sperm and egg donation enquiries – to reassurance about the correct day to take a pregnancy test. Sometimes, patients simply need someone to talk to.


Antonia adds, “Where we really excel as a team is when patients open up and talk to us. They know they can trust us and that we care.


And I have been through IVF myself, so I really do understand what an emotional rollercoaster this can be.”

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This is Antonia’s story, in her own words...

“I wanted to share my story to help others”

In 2014, Nick and I had just got married and we wanted to start a family.


A few years passed of us trying naturally and we decided to seek advice from our GP who sent us for tests at the hospital to see if there was anything underlying.


We had blood tests and semen analysis and the test results came back with a diagnosis of unexplained infertility.


We were offered three cycles of IUI as my natural FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) levels were too high to meet NHS requirements for full IVF. 


However, just before starting treatment we became pregnant naturally.


Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be and we miscarried very early on. We were devastated and I was hit with wave after wave of emotion.


A few months passed and when the time was right, we decided to go ahead with the NHS funded IUI cycles.


This involved weekly follicle tracking and scans as well as medication.


None of the cycles worked, which left us deflated.


We were then offered a round of IVF, funded by the NHS, which was at TFP Fertility Nurture clinic.

IUI vs IVF

The main difference between these fertility treatments is that IVF involves taking fertility medicines and removing eggs from the body to fertilise in a lab. IUI is a less invasive treatment, where sperm is injected into the womb to fertilise an egg naturally. The appropriate treatment depends on what’s causing the fertility challenges, but many people are advised to try IUI first.

“While going through IVF, I was also helping others like me”

I knew the doctors and staff at TFP Fertility Nurture well.


Six months prior to this, I had started working for the team at TFP Fertility as a Patient Support Associate.


I spoke to patients in similar circumstances to myself who I would support alongside a small team to deliver the best care and experience to each individual patient.


Nick and I started our round of IVF and Nick would help with my injections each night and support in any way he could.


During this round of treatment we only had one viable embryo, which was created using ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection) and it was transferred into my uterus.


We waited two long weeks to find that unfortunately the treatment cycle wasn’t successful.


As upset as I was, I had told myself that it doesn’t always work on the first round. I had to try and stay positive.

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A few months went by and as we only qualified for one IVF cycle on the NHS, we decided to fund the second cycle privately.


For our second round, I needed progesterone injections after I had my egg collection as well as supplementary vitamins.


At this point, I started to feel lonely and isolated.


I knew there was counselling available to me as a patient, but because I was a member of staff, I found it worked best when I popped downstairs for an unofficial chat.


I always felt supported, but yet I always felt alone, no matter how many people were there to support me.


For this round, our embryologist used ICSI again and two viable embryos were created.


We were advised to put both embryos into my uterus during our transfer.


We waited again for the two weeks to pass and then it was time to take the test.

Having progesterone during IVF

Progesterone is a hormone that helps embryos stick the lining of the womb. During IVF, the medicines used to supress your cycle can also reduce natural progesterone. For some people taking progesterone injections, gels, tablets or pessaries during IVF to replace natural progesterone may help increase the chances of pregnancy.

“I carried on supporting others even when I was heartbroken myself”

Nick was in another room of our home when I did the test. When I found him, I had tears running down my face.


He immediately thought the worst, but it was positive.


These were tears of relief.


I spoke to the nurses at TFP Fertility Nurture the next day and we booked in a six-week scan.


Everything was fine at the scan and we eagerly waited to tell our families.


But a few weeks later I had another miscarriage.


I was broken.


I returned to work and continued to support others who were going through treatment. 


Even though my colleagues were supportive, the whole time all I could think about was my journey and what we had been through as a couple.

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After a break, Nick and I decided to go again.


We increased my vitamin intake and did more research, as well as more blood tests.


Our consultant was excellent and the whole clinical team were genuinely wonderful people to speak to and gave us such reassurance.


We headed into our third round with hope.


This time three eggs were collected with only two being viable embryos so we made the decision to transfer one.


The second embryo was frozen.

“I remember the transfer so clearly”

Even after everything that had happened, I found myself feeling utterly content and at ease during that transfer.


Two more weeks passed, this was the longest wait ever.


I took a pregnancy test two days early (which I tell all our patients they shouldn’t do) but this time it was positive.


Nick and I felt all the emotions:  elation, fear, worry and back to elation again.


Soon it was time for our six-week scan and as I sat in that waiting room, I was frightened. What if this never happened for us?


But the scan room felt different that day – somehow more hopeful. I was so anxious, but Nick kept me grounded like he always did.


Before long, we heard it: a strong and clear heartbeat. And we watched the tiny bean that was our baby Jackson, moving inside my womb.


Through all the years of our journey, the ups, the downs, the treatment and miscarriages we finally had our result.

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We were very apprehensive throughout the whole of the pregnancy, and I knew until I had Jackson in my arms I would always be.


Fast forward a few years and that bean is now two and is a happy, healthy toddler who is a joy to have in our lives.


His giggle and smile along with his cheeky attitude bring us so much happiness. Words can’t express it.


The pain of our journey never goes away but it eases and becomes more manageable, and I always light a candle on Baby Loss Awareness Week as none of our little embryos will ever be forgotten.

“There’s something about working here at TFP Fertility.

The things we can achieve on a scientific level are immense but making dreams come true is immeasurable.”

I wanted to share my story with others going through this as it has taught me both personal resilience and the skills to support others: our patients and my colleagues.


I can empathise with the patients I speak to and see it from both perspectives.


I want to give hope that although this is a hard road, it’s a path many of us must follow to realise our dreams.


And once you’ve reached your destination, you’ll know it was all worth it.

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Could a TFP fertility specialist help you?

Whether you’re worried about your fertility, exploring your options, or have been on the fertility path for a long time – our specialists are here with personalised advice and medical expertise to help you on your fertility journey.


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